Colonial Complexions: Race and Bodies in Eighteenth-Century America

TitleColonial Complexions: Race and Bodies in Eighteenth-Century America
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsBlock, Sharon
Number of Pages217
PublisherUniversity of Pennsylvania Press
CityPhiladelphia
Abstract

In an analysis with wide-reaching implications for contemporary understandings of slavery, race, and racism, Sharon Block demonstrates how Anglo-Americans between 1750-1775 developed conceptions of race from their own descriptions of physical appearance. Aggregating corporeal categorizations in more than four thousand newspaper ads for runaway slaves and servants in colonial North America, Block demonstrates how the cataloguing of bodily difference constructed runaways along lines far more complex than the black/white binary. Carefully enumerating the range of characteristics ascribed to particular bodies, Block demonstrates how "slavery literally molded bodies" (109). Brands on flesh and the descriptions in the runaway ads naturalized subjection, producing persons as commodities. The features and behaviors described in the ads, always more than a reflection of skin color or phenotype, counter theories of "transhistoric relationships between various bodily descriptions, ethnicities, and racial meaning" (83).

URLhttps://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctv16t6j48
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